‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ – Howard Beale
“Be slow to anger because your anger does not produce God’s righteousness…” – James 1:20
So, we come to this moment in the ebb and flow or our republic when everyone seems to be mad as hell. People of all political bends walk around with a scowl ready to burst into vitriol in order to bring righteousness to the fore. And yet righteousness slips through our fingers like the water of a stream…and dissipates. The more anger we express, the cloudier our sense of righteousness becomes.
Howard Beale, the main character of an old 1970’s movie (Network), who encouraged people to run to their windows and yell out into the streets, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!” seems to have been resurrected and placed in the hearts and minds of the citizens of these United States. There is not anyone who is not fed up and ready to say so, it seems. It is so pervasive that there can only be one conclusion. People truly believe that their anger will be transformative.
It is the problem with anger. In the moment it always seems to be an answer and sometimes the only answer. However, beyond the moment anger is exposed for what it is. It is a destroyer of trust and relationships and so often demands large doses of forgiveness and kindness to repair. I don’t know if I can remember a single instance in which anger ever returned on its promise. It seems like it will solve some difficult situations. And yet I know people who haven’t spoken for a lifetime because of a volatile moment of anger. That is no solution. Anger accomplishes nothing and yet we seem to continue to believe in it. And so we drift ceaselessly toward the abyss.
The words from the Letter of James are quite appropriate for our time, then. I usually don’t like the lengthy preachiness of the epistles. And yet sometimes there are things that we need to be lectured about. This is one of those subjects because left to our own devices we are quick to anger and believe too readily in the power of anger to bring God’s righteousness. I see it daily. However, we are wrong. As the Letter of James makes clear, anger has never helped and never will.
There is a story that is truly instructive. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was thrust into an angry maelstrom in late 1955 in the early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He became one of the leaders of the boycott and was identified as such. As the boycott continued into January King received forty hate letters a day and hateful phone calls all night. On January 30 when he was out speaking for the boycott a fire bomb was thrown onto the porch of his house. His wife Coretta and his infant daughter were inside. Talk about a true reason for righteous anger! And yet when the mob of angry supporters gathered around his house and he could have said the word and they would have burned down Montgomery…he did something different. He sent them home. He knew the anger they had in mind was not God’s will. It is wisdom for the ages. We may be mad as hell but no matter how mad we are it will not help. God calls us away from that anger to truly transformative answers of love and hope and faith. Love your enemies. Could it be stated any clearer? Let it be so.